These are individual exhibits dispersed throughout the museum, which present documents and other materials pertinent to the political and peacebuilding work that has brought the Philippines to the threshold of recognizing Bangsamoro. These exhibits represent the resolve of ARMM to gather the documents of this historic process.


The Islamic City of Marawi was the theater of a full scale war in 2017 between the State and a complex network of belligerents seeking to overthrow the status quo. High-powered gunfire and bombardments pulverized the inner city. While it was ended after 153 days, the war underscored heightened possibility of an ever-dangerous future: that the globalization of Mindanao’s violent identity politics may still escalate tension. Considerable hope is vested in the Bangsamoro Organic Law: a legal remedy for the historical injustice that has fueled disaffection and rage for centuries. Few think the Law ideal, but it is expected to help consolidate solutions and maintain peace by finally creating Bangsamoro. Moreover, because it will take generations to restore urban equilibrium to Marawi, the city is verily a cautionary word: that the road to peace is uneven; rife with the potential for catastrophe.


The full-scale war that was fought at the commercial core of Marawi City annulled a century of physical/spatial memory, annihilated business, and spectacularly produced layers of social, political, economic, and cultural problems. From May 23 to October 23, 2017, the Armed Forces of the Philippines took up street-by-street urban warfare to disable youth radicalized in global theaters into carrying out extremist agenda. Self-styled ISIS mimics commenced the war by attempting to take over the city. And by operating through family ties, the radicals also ignited a powder-keg of violence that has long been latent in informal economies and in the web of blood debts that in Marawi is barely contained. To informed observers, an immense cocktail of vengeance, fury, and lamentation has been unleashed. However the war also made clear that this elevated danger is matched by the quickness and wisdom of citizen action.


The Muslim communities of the Philippines belong to several language groups. Like other Philippine language groups, the political units remained village-centric well into the 20th C. But bonds beyond language identities were formed by the common cause to seek reckoning for historical injustice perpetrated against Muslims in general by dominant Philippine groups. The idea of a bangsamoro — a polity incorporating all Muslim peoples of the Philippines living in traditional homelands — emerged with the first cries for secession around 1970. A bangsamoro captivated the imagination the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters and subsequently of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). When the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was established in 1989, bangsamoro was still an imagined community; however, with a geography under a unified administration. ARMM can be said to have enabled the emergence of a self-governing, financially independent Bangsamoro within the Philippines.


The Spanish word moro was pejorative. But, in the view of one study, “with the escalation of conflict between Moslems and the Philippine government in recent decades, Moslem political and military leaders have adopted a strategy now familiar in ethnic conflict. They have taken an externally applied slur as their own self-identification, a tactic aimed on emphasizing the common historical experience of all Philippine Moslems as victims of the slurrers. The ‘Moro National Liberation Front’ (MNLF) was formed in the 1970s… Its military arm titled itself the ‘Bangsa Moro Army’ (BMA) (‘Bangsa,’ from Malay, means ‘nation,’ ‘identity,’ ‘rank’ in all ‘Moro’ languages.) As a symbol of unity, however, ‘Moro’ has had questionable success…Along with the MNLF and the BMA, there arose the MILF, MNLFR…BMLO, MRO and MNRDF. All of these acronyms contain ‘M’ for ‘Moro’ and are based on English…” —identity as work-in-progress.


Hashim Salamat was born in Kudal, Pagalungan, Maguindanao in 1942. He was Chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) from its establishment around 1977, until his death in 2003. He was reclusive and theologically inclined, writing his thesis, “The Rise of Islam in Southeast Asia,” in Egypt’s Al Anzhar University. Salamat co-founded the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the early 1970’s. Salamat’s break from the MNLF in 1982 was for a complex of reasons, only one among which was a proclivity to an Islamism rather than secularism. Salamat was not to see what has come to pass after he renounced terrorism shortly before his death: the MILF waging peace. His personal library will in due course allow scholars access into his mind. The architecture of his thinking—a sa raya Maguindanaoan’s learned synthesis of Islam—may inform future analysis.


Islamic spirituality indigenized by the Austronesian Philippine peoples can be simultaneously conservative and original. The now obscure chant form dikkil (in Maguindanao, dikkër) is a striking example of this thoroughgoing faithfulness to an Islamic tradition that also allows for inventiveness—in fact exuberant flights of virtuosity. The singers are in best form when performing in competition. As many as 2 groups of 12 singers each group have been known to hold night-long contests judged for continuously holding high notes. The padidikër to be heard singing in the recording are Haron Puko, 62; Mahomad Akob, 55; Gulam Abdulrahman, 71; Esmael Usop, 62. They are men of Kudal, Pangalongan, Maguindanao—recruited into the MNLF as youth and therefore present when Hashim Salamat and Nur Misuari established the front. It was Salamat who proscribed against Maguindanao secular dayunday singing and the sagayan, but permitted dikkil performance.


Nearly two decades of excruciating work by relays of peace negotiators preceded the passage of the 2018 Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) that will create Bangsamoro. The process often ruptured—severely in 2001 military attack against the MILF following elevated distrust concerning terrorism; and again in 2003 with the assault on the Front’s Buliok Complex. Also, the MNLF’s Nur Misuari allegedly led the attack on Zamboanga City and Jolo. Periods of ceasefire followed these calamitous disruptions. In 2002, a fourth round of peace talks proscribed kidnap-for-ransom syndicates and implemented a key aspect of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement. In 2008, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain—which was about to create a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity. But hope was restored with the 2009 framework agreement to form the International Contact Group for the Peace Process, eventually leading to the BOL.


The excerpts from recent audio recordings available in this listening section are mere fragments from and echoes of long decades of discussion, assertions, avowals, and proclamations of positions that in due course came to meet in points of alignment. These crystallizations of ideas drew from—as they fed—conceptual shifts in the national public sphere. The most significant of these shifts is the recognition of grave historical injustice perpetrated against the Muslims of the Philippines, that must be righted for peace to fill the vacuums produced by violent explosions. It took centuries for the majority of residents of the Philippine archipelago to even begin to acknowledge the validity of Muslim-community grievance. It remains an incomplete development. What is clear at this juncture of history is that careful attention to language—that is, the creative force in nuanced discourse—may help win the peace.


Mujiv S. Hataman, born in 1972 in Sumisip, Basilan, is the incumbent Regional Governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and its last. Under his leadership — distinguished by his appointment to the ARMM leadership and bureaucracy of highly qualified men and women—cultivated a culture of meritocracy. Hataman was a student activist, notably taking up the leading position in the Muslim Youth and Students Alliance, and maturing into a party list politician in his 20s. Anak Mindanao, the party list group he headed, won a seat in Congress in 2001, and took his place as Representative in 2003. Appointed Officer-in-Charge of ARMM by President Benigno S. Aquino III in 2011, he subsequently won a landslide victory for a full term in 2013. The Reform Agenda he set out to accomplish, highlighted by efficiency,  transparency and accountability, is a distinct contribution to peace-building.


Samaon Sulaiman, laureate of the Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan (Living National Treasure) recognition, was performer par excellence on the two-stringed lute, kutyapî. Born in 1953 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, Sulaiman earned his keep as a barber; kept his devotions as imam of the masjid in the Lipatan; and developed such mastery of the kutyapî and other Maguindanao instruments that he was always in the radar of music connoisseurs in the Philippines and internationally. His performances conveyed his favored instrument’s power to intimate secrets, “speak” of life passages, and modulate emotional registers. The two-stringed lute is an instrument shared with many other language communities (the word kudyapî exists in Tagalog), but in Sulaiman’s hands became a medium for calming hearts across cultures. He built peace in the most lyrical way: between musician and listener, who both momentarily shared an inexplicable beauty, resonating into their futures.


In 1968, the erstwhile republican (who fought Japanese invaders as a Filipino guerilla) Datu Udtog Matalam of upstream Maguindanao called for secession, founding the Muslim Independence Movement (MIM). This MIM metamorphosed into the Mindanao Independence Movement, and, however short-lived, germinated the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by the Tausug intellectual Nur Misuari with cohorts like the scion of a distinguished Maranao family, Abdul Khayr Alonto as co-founder, and the aspiring theologian Hashim Salamat. With the breakaway of Salamat’s group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), from the mother movement, MNLF, the Philippine Muslim imperative for self-determination was to gain energy and momentum that propelled it for another three decades (and counting). No less than culture change was demanded from the Philippine nation by these movements: recognition of a legitimate concept of peace based on respect for difference; ultimately, Moro liberation from prejudice.


The official statement reads: “The Bangsamoro Organic Law (Republic Act No. 11054), also known as Bangsamoro Basic Law and often referred to by the acronym “BOL” and “BBL” is a Philippine law providing for the establishment of an autonomous political entity known as the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, replacing ARMM. Legislative efforts for the establishment of a Bangsamoro autonomous region was first proposed and deliberated upon by the 16th Congress of the Philippines but failed to pass into law. The issue was taken up once again by the 17th  Congress, and ratified by Congress on July 23 and 24, 2018 respectively. The bill was finally signed into law on July 26, 2018.” The BOL makes good on the agreements set forth in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2014.